Vampires are one of the most enduring global myths, using their transmogrification abilities to transform with the culture. As evidenced in recent films like the upcoming reboot of '70s soap opera "Dark Shadows" and the final installment of the "Twilight" series, today's vampire is more charming, romantic, and misunderstood than the evil bloodsuckers of earlier days.
While the mythological vampire of folklore embodied the fear of mortality, the modern vampire is more complicated. Like humans, they can be both good and evil, as in the "Underworld" series, where each vampire has his or her own motivations.
Of course, there are exceptions, "30 Days of Night" (2007) portrays the vampires as vicious, evil, and bloodthirsty. Similarly, the vampires of "Priest" (2011) are soulless monsters. But more often, as in the 2006 film "Ultraviolet," vampires are seen as victims, similar to addicts. In the case of "Ultraviolet," they're humans with an unusual blood condition.
Along with the depiction of vampirism as a disease, the modern movie vampire often exemplifies an old type: the reluctant vampire. Such vampires -- who are created unwillingly and hate the monster they have become, causing them to deny their very natures -- first arose in the Victorian-era penny dreadful "Varney the Vampire." Varney, filled with remorse for his vampiric actions, eventually cast himself into a volcano.
Similarly, the vampire girl in "Let Me In," a 2010 remake of a 2008 Swedish film, only feeds because she needs to. She wants to play like any little girl and ultimately befriends her neighbor, a young boy whom she protects from her violent urges.
These poor, misunderstood vampires are today's "bad boys," romancing love interests in the "Twilight" series, concluding this summer with "Breaking Dawn - Part 2." In it, Bella Swan not only finally chooses Team Edward, a.k.a. the sparkling vampire Edward Cullen, but also gives birth to his baby.
The family angle -- and perhaps some resulting humanization of vampires -- will also be explored in the upcoming Neil Jordan film "Byzantium," which will feature a vampire mother and daughter duo. Jordan, who famously revamped the werewolf myth in his 1984 film "In the Company of Wolves," will likely bring new insight to the ancient myth.
Like "Dark Shadows," which promises to take a humorous look at the fanged ones, an upcoming animated movie, "Hotel Transylvania," will provide a lighter perspective on the world's most famous vampire, Dracula. Adam Sandler will provide the voice of Dracula, a family man who runs a resort hotel for monsters. Typical of any dad, he goes into overprotective mode when a human boy discovers the resort and falls for Drac's teenage daughter.
It's a mark of how views of vampires have changed that today's Dracula is an innocuous family man. Really, though, it should be no surprise; compare today's romantic vampire to the repulsive beast of 1922's "Nosferatu." Today, the vampire is more of an ally than an enemy, more misunderstood than evil.
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